Farmers Look to New Grant for Electric Irrigation
Friday, March 1st, 2013
As diesel prices continue to climb – up to $4.15 a gallon the last day of February – another grant opportunity opened Thursday to help farmers convert their irrigation equipment to electricity.
The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA), the group that helps municipalities fund water, sewer and solid waste infrastructure and oversees conservation projects, launched an incentive program designed to help farmers in that state become more energy-efficient, save money on fuel costs, and reduce emissions.
“We are pleased to have rebates available to help farmers install more efficient irrigation motors, which will lower their fuel costs and contribute to our state’s culture of conservation,” said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. “Agriculture is Georgia’s largest industry and we want to help it grow any way possible.”
The Georgia Agricultural Irrigation Motor (AIM) Program will provide farmers with a rebate to replace inefficient diesel irrigation engines with energy-efficient electric irrigation motors. The rebates will cover 25 percent of the cost up to $10,000.
Similar rebate programs through the USDA have proven popular as farmers look to cut energy costs, as well as maintenance expense on motors.
When the USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service used stimulus money to replace diesel engines a couple of years ago, farmers jumped at the chance to upgrade their equipment.
“Most of them had really old diesel engines, and the farmers were happy to replace them,” said Kim Thompson, who ran the program in South Georgia’s Dodge, Bleckley and Twiggs counties. Forty-three farmers got a piece of the $500,000 grant to replace motors and more went on a waiting list when the money ran out.
The stimulus grant was a good deal – 75 percent of the cost of the project up to $15,000 – but program leaders figured that fuel cost savings could pay for most engine replacement in a little more than a year anyway.
“The whole cost could be recouped pretty quickly,” Thompson said. “Like everything else, it just depends on how much it rains.”
The GEFA is available only to farmers in Georgia, but the USDA’s EQIP program offers grants from time to time, as does the USDA’s Rural Development office.
The GEFA grant also:
- Will fund 25 percent of the cost up to $10,000, including expenses associated with connecting the electric motor to the power meter, three-phase converters and variable frequency drives. The rebate does not cover expenses payable to a power company.
- Must replace a diesel engine that is at least 10 years old and in service.
- Must pay a licensed contractor to do the work, which can only include an electric motor up to two-thirds of the size of the diesel engine it’s replacing.
- The application period for the program opens online at www.gefa.org on Wednesday, March 6, at 8 a.m. Available funding is limited and rebates will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The application period will close April 15, at 5 p.m.